Wednesday, July 13, 2022

The Sacro Monte of Oropa

In 2018, I posted pictures of the “Sacri Monti – Sacred Mountains” of Varese (part 1; part 2; part 3) and Varallo (part 1; part 2) in northern Italy, which our Ambrosian writer Nicola de’ Grandi and I visited during the annual summer pilgrimage of the Schola Sainte-Cécile. These are two of a group of nine shrines in the provinces of Lombardy and the Piedmont (three in the former, six in the latter), which consist of chapels arranged around a particular theme: at Belmonte, the theme is the Way of the Cross, at Orta, the life of St Francis, etc. Four of them (Varese, Oropa, Ossuccio and Crea) have the Mysteries of the Rosary as their theme, with the addition in some cases of other episodes from the Virgin Mary’s life. Inside each chapel, one of the sacred episodes is represented by a group of life-sized painted statues, and frescoes on the walls; some of these are quite small and simple, others very elaborate indeed. The pilgrims say the Rosary or do the Stations while passing from chapel to chapel, walking up the mountain through a beautiful park. (The chapels, by the way, are so called because of their architectural structure, but they don’t have altars and are not set up for the celebration of Mass.) Nicola recently visited the Sacro Monte at Oropa, a few miles north of the town of Biella, and we thank him for sharing these pictures with us.

The large entrance courtyard which leads into the sanctuary proper.
The main courtyard with the original church of the Madonna di Oropa on the right from this point of view; the surrounding buildings house various facilities to take care of pilgrims.  
A marker which notes the sanctuary’s elevation above sea level, a bit over 3800 feet.
The Black Madonna of Oropa, legendarily said to have been brought to the region by St Eusebius of Vercelli in the fourth century from his exile in the Middle East. It is now generally thought to have been made in the 13th century. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was a great devotee of this sanctuary.
The old basilica, built in the early 17th century after a severe local outbreak of plague in 1599. The building incorporates parts of a much older church that dates back to the 9th century. 
A new, much larger basilica was begun in 1885, and consecrated in 1960.
The monumental central doors recount the legendary history of the sanctuary, going back to the time of St Eusebius.
Unfortunately, the whole of the main sanctuary is marred by this ridiculously ugly baldachin.
A side chapel with a painting of the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, centered on the figure of the Virgin Mary.
Next to it, the chapel of the Assumption.
and another dedicated to the Marriage of the Virgin.
The outdoor chapels of the Sacred Mountain.
The interior of the chapel of the Immaculate Conception.
The Birth of the Virgin
The Virgin among the young women who serve in the temple.
The marriage of the Virgin

The Annunciation
The Visitation
The Birth of the Lord
The Purification

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